"We have an empty diary and we’re missing the smiling faces of people we support when volunteering.” This was Tony and Natasha’s experience of Lockdown and it's very different to the life they have shaped for themselves since they arrived in Gisborne nearly four years ago.
Originally the retirees sought out volunteering opportunities as a way to connect with their new community. Natasha’s working life included a twenty-four-year career as a pharmacist in Kazakhstan, then almost a decade as a caregiver in elderly residential facilities before her retirement.
Tony’s working background was within the printing industry and later taxi driving, he’s used to being busy and described feeling lost without their usual routine of volunteering. “We feel like we are not connecting and contributing.” he shared. They wanted to help others during the Lockdown period but found that the age restrictions made it difficult to do so. Natasha couldn’t wait to get back to the Op-shop she volunteers in.
The couple enjoys volunteering at events like the Weetbix Kids Triathlon and the annual Pumpkin Festival, along with their regular roles.
“We like to care about people,” shares Natasha. The couple have met many people and made a lot of connections through their many hours volunteering.
Wait to return to their normal volunteering routine. “We have not enjoyed lockdown, it was awful not to be able to do anything to help.” A call from a local sports club during Level Two provided an opportunity for Tony to get back into the community. He and a group of other volunteers were quick to enjoy a morning sprucing up the sports facility in anticipation for Level 1 activities.
Tony and Natasha bring many skills to their volunteering roles in the community and they also gain so much from the work that they do. Volunteering is a valuable part of their lives and they can’t imagine not being able to give back to the community the way they do.